All Aboard the SS Badger
The SS Badger is a National Landmark and operates between Manitowoc Wisconsin and Ludington Michigan as a coal fired steamship.
It was originally one of many car-rail ferries between Wisconsin and Michigan designed to avoid the traffic snarls created by going around Lake Michigan through Chicago.
The Badger was one of three ships built in Sturgeon Bay and was christened by Mrs. Kohler, the wife of the Kohler plumbing fixture owner. It was launched sideways and created such a splash, it knocked over three rail cars stationed in front of the mechanic shops in the harbor with lake water flowing through the shops and flooding the streets.
The season of sailing is short due to winter weather with the last sailing the middle of October. The trip each way takes about four hours but there is a time difference as Michigan is on Eastern Time and Wisconsin on Central Time.
For those of you who have taken the Galveston Ferry from Bolivar Peninsula to Galveston, this was very much the same but on a much grander scale. The cars and trucks and RV’s were driven on and off by porters who seemed to have only one speed on land–full-out run!. The large vehicles were backed in while the cars were driven in frontwards and somehow turned around to drive out forwards.
The interior of the shop had several hot food dining options, an interesting museum filled with information and a video about the Badger.
Interestingly, I discovered some photographs my grandmother had taken in 1954 when she went to Manitowoc to see the ferry. I don’t think she traveled on it as there are no Lake photos or any labeled as Michigan.
And here are two of my grandmother’s photos. There was much speculation at the Badger office regarding which ship it was and when the alterations to the ship had been made. However, my grandmother carefully noted on the back that this ship was the City of Midland.
According to the Maritime Museum in Sturgeon Bay there were over 17 car ferry ships built along with multiple other ships as part of the War Effort in the 1940’s. Most of the transport was rail cars loaded with steel, produce and other goods.